Unthank Road is the backbone of the Golden Triangle, the area of Victorian terraced housing fanning out from the south-west of the city centre. The intriguing name comes from the Unthank clan, a landowning family who happened to be sitting on prime real estate when the city spilled outside of its walls in the early 19th century. Across successive generations, the Unthanks developed the meadows and parkland around their Heigham House estate, turning it into the undulating landscape of terraced workers' houses that Norvicians know and live in today. The Unthanks' estate, once a country house a twenty-minute walk beyond the city boundary, is now the neighbourhood spanning Essex Street to Bury Street, opposite the central cluster of shops on the main road.
It was long said that a stretch of unusually tall wall opposite the turning onto Clarendon Road was the last trace of the Unthanks' estate, having belonged to their stable-house, but a painstaking search through the available records by local blogger Clive Lloyd eventually determined that the wall was built when a wealthy family, the Stewards, sold their land to one William Trory. The Stewards lived in the house across the main road, and did not want a view straight across into the gardens (and privies) of the working-class houses, so they required Trory, and whoever bought the land after him, to build some sort of high wall or house, so the Stewards would be shielded from unseemly views when they looked out of their bedroom windows.
Most of the smaller street names in this area come from landowners like Trory and the Stewards, who shaped the landscape with their money and influence. As a result of the contract Trory had to sign, the street bearing his name is a cul-de-sac, with a large house blocking the end of the road from Unthank Road proper, and thus protecting the long-dead Steward family from having to see any working-class toilets.
The area beyond Trory Street is dominated by the Vauxhall Street development of 60s council houses, and the 16-storey Winchester Tower. The Tower made national headlines on January 31st, 2020, the day Britain left the European Union: a racist resident tacked A4 sheets to fire doors on all floors, bearing this grotesque message:
Happy Brexit Day
As we finally have our great country back we feel there is one rule to [sic] that needs to be made clear to Winchester Tower residents.
We do not tolerate people speaking other languages than English in the flats.
We are now our own country again and the the [sic] Queens [sic] English is the spoken tongue here.
If you do want to speak whatever is the mother tongue of the country you came from then we suggest you return to that place and return that flat to the council so they can let British people live here and we can return to what was normality before you infected this once great island.
It's a simple choice obey the rule of the majority or leave.
You won't have long till our government will implement rules that will put British first [sic]. So, best evolve or leave.
God Save the Queen, her government and all true patriots.
The disgusting poster was immediately torn down and replaced with dozens of heart-shaped messages of support, solidarity and multiculturalism. The messages were collected by residents Maria Willis and Poppy Rose, and donated to the archive centre at the Norwich Millennium Library. A police probe was launched, but the author of the message was never found, and the case was closed in May 2020, by which time the poster had been discussed by the Prime Minister. The incident served as a barometer of Norwich's—and the country's—mood upon leaving the EU.
Winchester Tower in 1982. Courtesy of the Tower Block project.
Today the Unthank Road area is distinctly more genteel than Dereham or Earlham Road. The student population provides a bit of character and chaos. Further south, there are posher areas still to be found southwards in Town Close, Mount Pleasant and Newmarket Road. No student dares to tread here; it is the domain of the modern equivalents of the Unthanks and Stewards, in their ivy-covered Georgian villas.
The road continues to the outer ring of suburbs around UEA, but unlike Earlham or Dereham it does not follow any ancient trackways into the Norfolk countryside. It instead hooks south to join Newmarket Road near the River Yare at Cringleford.